On NBC, Leftist Rails: Are We Gonna Be 'Bullied' by 'Right Wing Media Which Peddles Fears?'

NBC's Matt Lauer brought on two liberals, former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr. and Katrina Vanden Heuvel, publisher and editor of the leftist The Nation magazine, on Friday's Today show, to dissect the Shirley Sherrod "saga" as viewers were treated to an attack on the "right wing media which peddles fears and slanders." In a segment titled "Race In America, Lessons Learned From The Shirley Sherrod Saga" Vanden Heuvel dominated the conversation as she didn't attack just Andrew Breitbart but conservative media as a whole as she railed "Are we gonna be a media system which is vetting and holding standards or are we gonna be bullied as a country by a right wing media which peddles fears and slanders to really destroy President Obama's presidency?"

However, Vanden Heuvel is probably the last one to be preaching about standards as Lauer failed to mention that several of The Nation staffers, at JournoList, criticized journalists for doing any journalism at all about Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

For asking a Wright question in a 2008 debate, Richard Kim jeered George Stephanopoulos was "being a disgusting little rat snake," and Chris Hayes castigated his fellow liberals, as well, for criticizing Wright: "All this hand wringing about just how awful and odious Rev. Wright remarks are, just keeps the hustle going."

On the bright side, after Vanden Heuvel slammed Fox News,  later in the segment, Lauer corrected the myth, that his own program advanced on Wednesday, that Fox News somehow forced Sherrod's resignation:

LAUER: And let's just make the point. They [Fox News] didn't run the tape until after the resignation. So it's not as if they forced the resignation.

The following segment was aired on the July 23 Today show:

MATT LAUER: Alright Chuck Todd at the White House this morning, thanks very much. NBC News political analyst Harold Ford is a former Democratic congressman and chair of the Democratic Leadership Counsel as well as the author of the new book More Davids Than Goliaths. Katrina Vanden Heuvel is the publisher and editor of The Nation magazine. Hey folks good morning to both of you.

[On screen headline: "Race In America, Lessons Learned From The Shirley Sherrod Saga"]

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, THE NATION: Thank you.

HAROLD FORD: Good morning.

LAUER: You know we heard a lot this week. We heard people from the NAACP to the administration, all over the place saying there are teachable moments here. So what did we learn?

FORD: I think we learned two things. One, we should all take a collective sigh and deep breath. The media, those in politics, those listening and weighing issues in Congress and certainly those who immediately inject race into things. I think the politics is bigger than the race. We in the media, and I consider myself in the media somewhat working for NBC, we jump on things whether it's in the blogosphere. We jump on a report from someone that may not or some group that may not follow ethical standards as, as forcefully and as fastidiously as some in the media do. It's time for all to take a step back, listen to the other side and you may reach a different conclusion.

LAUER: What did you learn?

VANDEN HEUVEL: Well I think this is a testing moment for America. I think, are we gonna be an America that learns from Shirley Sherrod's tale of reconciliation, overcoming prejudice, working with that white family to overcome poverty? Are we gonna be a media system which is vetting and holding standards or are we gonna be bullied as a country by a right wing media which peddles fears and slanders to really destroy President Obama's presidency? And finally is this White House gonna wake up, but is this White House-

LAUER: But in the past it's worked in both directions, by the way. I mean biased media is nothing new.

VANDEN HEUVEL: You know what? Matt, it's not about bias. It's about a mainstream media, with a few exceptions in this case, accepting Andrew Breitbart, a journalist who is known to have no credibility, and he ginned up his story and people moved too quickly. I agree with Harold. But I would also point out that this White House needs to institute procedures, as President Obama said and get a spine because it is feeding the zealots of our system by not standing tall and confronting the forces of hate-

LAUER: But what we also-

VANDEN HEUVEL: -and fear in a country-

LAUER: -what we also learned-

VANDEN HEUVEL: -which has a lot of economic pain.

LAUER: Harold mentioned this too. You say the word "race" or you say the word "racism" and it immediately elicits a sense of fear in people. Ordinarily reasonable people start to do some very unreasonable things when they worry about being associated with that word.

VANDEN HEUVEL: But I think you're, you're doing too much moral equivalence, Matt. I really think that you're seeing people in the media system in this country who are doing good work. I mean in this case the Atlanta Journal Constitution and CNN stepped back, took the time, vetted, did due diligence, which is what the White House might have done. But two, you have in Fox News, they hasn't retracted the story. Shepherd Smith has said a few words. But this was a ginned up, fabricated story and this country can't afford this kind of fake journalism.

LAUER: I was gonna say Bill O'Reilly also apologized. And let's just make the point. They didn't run the tape until after the resignation. So it's not as if they forced the resignation.

FORD: The, the, what the most positive thing about the racial aspect of this was that the collective response, if Miss Sherrod had actually said and meant the things that she said, the collective response of the nation was the right one, that she should be removed from her job if she allows race to determine how and when she will work.

LAUER: But the [inaudible] was wrong.

FORD: True. So the problem was no one looked at the tape. But I'm saying, collectively, our, our response to what we thought was an injustice as a nation, be it Fox News or the White House, was the right thing. The problem was, no one took the time to listen or watch this woman. And she's really the hero in this whole thing. The fact that she has shown a kind of temperament, a disposition and the same kind of reconciliation she expressed in her speech towards those in the media. And I know to Mr. Breitbart she said he was dead wrong.

LAUER: Right.

FORD: But to the President, to all, that's the spirit that we should all embrace.

LAUER: Real, real quickly and I hate to do this to you Katrina. But if she doesn't end up taking this job, does she do real damage to this administration?

VANDEN HEUVEL: No.

LAUER: More damage?

VANDEN HEUVEL: No, I don't think so. But I do think that in the grace and dignity she showed, she stuck to her principles and I think this country can learn a lesson from that.

LAUER: Katrina and Harold, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Good having you both here.

FORD: Thank you.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.